For the last three decades, Niagara University has held its commencement ceremonies at off-campus sites such as the Niagara Falls Convention Center and the University at Buffalo.
But for the second time in 36 years, commencement will return to the Lewiston campus, and this year's graduates will hear from a lineup of high-powered speakers.
"I think everyone on campus is excited to be able to bring graduation back on campus," said university spokesman Michael Freedman. "It was always kind of awkward to have students studying here for four years, and then we would go celebrate the end of their time here at another college."
Space concerns were behind the tradition of off-campus graduation, Freedman said, but officials have worked to find room in the Gallagher Center to bring the event back. Part of the solution was splitting the undergraduate commencement ceremonies into two parts.
Students from the colleges of Business Administration and Hospitality & Tourism Management will receive their degrees at 10 a.m. May 12, and students from the colleges of Arts & Sciences and Education will get their degrees at 3 p.m. Ceremonies for graduate students, which have always been held on campus, will take place at 11 a.m. May 13.
To ease concerns about the separation of the undergraduate ceremonies into two parts, the university has planned a senior class brunch, gala and liturgy for students from all schools.
"It's kind of an action-packed weekend," Freedman said. "We've put together activities to celebrate graduation, and it will allow them to do so together."
Business and hospitality students will hear a speech from Tom Ashbrook, journalist and host of National Public Radio's "On Point with Tom Ashbrook."
Ashbrook spent two decades as a foreign correspondent, including 10 years based in India, Hong Kong and Japan. He received the Livingston Prize for National Reporting and was a 1996 fellow at Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for Journalism before becoming an Internet entrepreneur.
Arts & Sciences and education students will hear a speech from Sylvia Nasar, the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Business Journalism at Columbia University. Nasar has been an economics correspondent for the New York Times, and her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Newsweek.
She is perhaps best known as the author of "A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash." The book, which chronicles the life of the influential and asocial mathematician, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie in 2001 starring Russell Crowe.
Also at the ceremony, Nasar and Robert Clune, a 1958 NU graduate, will be presented honorary degrees. Clune, managing partner of the Williamson Clune & Stevens personal injury law firm in Ithaca, is a former Tompkins County assistant district attorney.
Niagara's graduate commencement will feature keynote speaker Lloyd Robertson, retired chief anchor and senior editor of "CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson." Robertson, a broadcaster for more than 50 years, was the first journalist inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
Joining Robertson in receiving an honorary degree will be Mike Holmes, the host of "Holmes Inspection" and "Holmes on Homes" on HGTV. He advises homeowners how to manage renovations and home repairs.
While Holmes' TV shows have garnered him a growing fan base, he has also launched a charitable foundation in Canada to support the training of young people in skilled trades through apprenticeships and scholarships.
Holmes helped build a sustainable and hurricane-resistant house in New Orleans as part of Brad Pitt's "Make it Right NOLA" project.
"That's a big thing for students here, and that's a big part of our mission, the serving aspect and giving back to the community," Freedman said.
The only other time that recent commencement ceremonies were held at the Monteagle Ridge campus was in 2003, when the Niagara Falls Convention Center was being transformed into the Seneca Niagara Casino.
Tickets are required for admission to the commencement ceremonies.